Great lawns are the result of basic attention to three simple practices: mowing, watering and fertilizing.
Frequent mowing creates a denser, more attractive lawn. Your mowing frequency will depend on how short you cut the grass. There is a direct relationship between taller grass height and more extensive root development. A strong root system is better able to handle the demands of summer. The goal is to mow often enough to remove about 1/3 of the leaf blade each time you mow. So the lower you set the blade, the more often you will have to mow.
Return clippings to the soil surface where they will decompose and release their nutrients to the growing turf. Think of those clippings as free, slow release, organic fertilizer. In the course of a year your lawn mower puts out more fertilizer than your fertilizer spreader. So if you bag the clippings and put them out for the trash man to haul away you aren’t buying fertilizer…you’re just “renting” it!
Most Houston area lawns with an automatic sprinkler system are overwatered. The best watering schedule is to provide a good soaking by applying 1/2 to 1″ every week to 10 days in the heat of summer. Light sprinklings encourage development of a shallow, sprinkler-dependent root system. Use a rain gauge or tuna can as your guide to know how long to water. If you see water running off before you’ve applied the desired amount set the system to water for as long as your soil will absorb it, then wait for 20-30 minutes and water again repeating the cycles until you have applied at least 1/2 inch.
Make your first fertilizer application when you have mowed the turfgrass twice (early to mid-April) so the turf is growing fast enough to benefit from the added nutrients. If you fertilize too early, the grass may green up but won’t start growing due to cool temperatures. The weeds, however, will thank you and grow like… well, like weeds!
Select a fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio of nutrients. Apply it at a rate of 1/2 to 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Divide the first number on the bag into 100 to get the pounds of a fertilizer needed to get 1 pound of nitrogen. A spring and a fall application (early to mid-October) is plenty of fertilizing, and you can maintain a nice lawn with even less when you are returning the clippings! Over fertilizing results in more mowing and a shallower root system that is less drought resilient.